Twitch Plays Pokémon

In case you haven’t been keeping up with what the kids are doing, the new phenom that’s hit the block these days is a little something called TwitchPlaysPokemon.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.31.32 AMTwitch is a live-streaming video platform that allows gamers to broadcast themselves while viewers across the globe watch them play a variety of games, ranging from Battlefield, Rift, Defiance, Just Dance, to, you guessed it, Pokémon, amongst others (more about Twitch as a platform, click here).  But what’s in it for the players, you may wonder?

Twitch pays partners and streamers for ad revenue and subscriptions, so incentive is high.  Viewers are also encouraged to donate to broadcasters they watch frequently, so there is a sense of community that lets players continue doing what they love, while letting others in on the action too.  What used to be a private form of entertainment reserved for the typically antisocial basement dweller has transformed into a community that allows players to watch, learn, converse, converge, and monetize.  Players interact with viewers, and personal input is encouraged.  Think of it as interacting with a Youtube video in real-time.

tppRecently, the Twitch community expanded its video stream with the introduction of TwitchPlaysPokemon.  This stream is characterized by the ability of the Twitch community to enter commands in a chat box ranging from left, right, up, down, A, or B (basically, the commands from Gameboy, circa 1998).  These commands direct the onscreen character and his Pokémon, whose hilarious names include “JLVWNOOOO” (referred to by the community as Jay Leno), and ABBBBBBK (Abby).   TwitchPlaysPokemon is a self-described “social experiment” wherein the Twitch community has been challenged to play through the Gameboy version of Pokémon Red running via emulator.

It’s drawn a total of over 32 million views, with peak action hitting over 120,000 viewers.  The challenge of the game is no longer to become the ultimate Pokémon Trainer alone, but to do so while being commandeered by hundreds of thousands of strangers.  It’s like having 50,000 thumbs mashing all the keys on a Gameboy at once.  A win for one is a win for all!

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.32.41 AMThe stream was launched on February 12, 2014, and the community has, surprisingly, acquired 7 of the 16 gym badges in-game, a feat that players of the game (in its original incarnation) may not have even achieved.  Despite its progress, the creator of TwitchPlaysPokemon has stated that he has little hope of seeing the game completed, despite its running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Even still, the game has launched the creation of numerous memes, legends, and a reddit community.  It even has its own religion.

The process seems entirely post-modern: the recycling of a beloved 90’s game in an effort to allow users from all over the globe to reminisce and re-embrace the IP in its original venue.  From a viral marketing perspective, it’s genius.  The difference now, of course, is that it’s no longer a single-player experience.  When you think about it, the whole adventure seems a bit ludicrous in its imagination and execution (again, insert imagery of thousands of thumbs button-mashing simultaneously – chaos!), and yet fans all over the world are still captivated to see this experiment to completion.

It’s exciting to see if the Twitch community will be able to beat the game, which you can catch (and participate) live here:

Felicia Ho
Project Manager

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